Having launched our political careers during a period of major change in Canada’s political landscape, it is a characteristic of our generation to have lived through some very exciting (cool) political moments.
When I first got involved in the NDP, we were the 4th party, counted ourselves lucky to have regained our official party status in the House of Commons, had no chances of ever electing a single MP in Quebec and had just selected a new leader who wasn’t taken seriously because he had a funny mustache and “sounded like a used car salesman”.
People in the Parliamentary bubble truly believed that the Liberal Party was Canada’s natural governing party; it had won and would win almost every election in our country’s history. The Conservatives had an awkward and scary leader who could only appeal to voters by making them believe that his party couldn’t win government.
Today’s political landscape is so drastically different that it is difficult to imagine how we got here. The Liberals have practically disappeared from the House of Commons and are in the process of electing their 7th leader in 9 years in a leadership race which has failed to attract any serious candidates. The Conservatives are now the kings of Canada thanks to the cunning of their unbeatable leader. The New Democrats were led to Official Opposition status and complete dominance in Quebec by their charismatic leader and his legendary mustache. They have now selected a former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister as their new leader and are tied with the governing party in 1 poll out of 2.
All of this brings me back to the question of how we got here, and the answer is: through a string of exciting political moments for the people involved in each of Canada’s political parties.
Personally, I would single out the announcement of Tom Mulcair as the NDP’s new leader at our 2012 Leadership Convention as the #1 most exciting political moment of my short career.
What made that moment so exciting for me was the how impossible it had seemed a mere 8 months earlier. I remember joining Tom’s team when it was Tom, a colleague named Ian Gillespie and me meeting at the Bâton Rouge in Hull to discuss our strategy to win despite being seen as outsiders by the party’s establishment and believed not to have a chance at beating the prohibitive front-runner by everyone in Ottawa.
After 8 months of 22 hour work days, visited every single province, assembling the best campaign team, speaking to tens of thousands of supporters through our call centers, recruiting 10 000 new members in the province of Quebec and having each gained 30 pounds, we arrived at the Toronto Leadership Convention in a drastically different position than we had been in at the outset of the race. We won the first round of voting as well as each of the subsequent rounds but our main opponent was close at our heels. We managed to convince most of the MPs to support Tom when their preferred candidate was eliminated but it was the members voting and we couldn’t know how they would choose to vote on the last round.
The voting dragged on late into the night so there was a lot of anticipation when the last round came around and we were left with nothing to do but wait on the Convention floor for the result to be announced.
I’m happy to say that I shared this moment with Steeve Azoulay who was the Director of the Quebec Region for CJPAC at the time and who was with me on the floor of the convention when the winner was announced. I’m sad to say that despite the excitement, I was too exhausted to celebrate and left for a good 24 hour sleep in my hotel room – although I did take the time to savour the bottle of Champagne I had bought for the occasion!
I’m convinced that those of us who continue our involvement over the next decade will have the opportunity to live through many more exciting moments as we continue to reshape the political structures in our country and find new and better occasions for opening many good bottles of bubbly!
Julien has been involved as a New Democrat for over 10 years. He worked as a strategist on Tom Mulcair’s leadership campaign and handled Quebec communications at the NDP’s campaign headquarters in the 2 years leading up to their 2011 election breakthrough. Julien’s involvement in the Jewish community has helped him build relationships throughout his political career. He now works as a consultant at a public relations firm in Montreal.
**Disclaimer: At CJPAC, we strive to encourage debate and discussion – as they say, 2 Jews, 3 opinions. We have provided this forum as an opportunity for members of the Jewish and pro-Israel community to express their unique points of view. The opinions in this article are those of the author, and may not reflect the views of CJPAC, its staff or its officers.